Eight Lessons Learned as a full-time nomad while still working 40+ hours a week.
December 2021, boondocking in Magnolia Beach TX
It's been almost two years since we hit the road to live full-time on an RV. Nobody tells you that it can get really difficult to not have a home for a while. Being constantly on the road is tiring. It can disrupt sleep, work, relationships, and workflow. Living like a nomad means you adopt a bit of a minimalist lifestyle. And that's pretty awesome as you will soon realize you don't need that much to enjoy life. But that and all, it's a great way of living.
I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to work remotely, but with that freedom comes great responsibility; that last sentence almost sounded like the Spiderman movie; but seriously, I've had to learn to manage my time and be as productive as I can be. This also means having to adjust my sleep patterns to be able to always be on Central time while I may be crossing time zones back and forth. At first, I was always either late or early for my meetings until I decided to set my work computer clock to be always on central time.
Then what's left to do is to choose a destination, which is barely based on who of our friends and family do we want to come and visit, and what things are on the way. Our departing point was Jackson Michigan, where we were living at the time we took off. We knew we wanted to travel to the Upper Peninsula and stop at the cabin up north; that was easy, but as we have continued to travel, we've learned to:
Give us enough time at the same location. This was important to me since I work during the day, I was feeling rushed to try to go and see and capture as much as I could in the afternoon hours and still get enough light to get good images. We went from staying one week to 2 to 3 weeks at a time, and this year we are going for 4-6 weeks stay.
Book sites ahead of time. I never thought how much work this task would require, but Kevin spends quite some time trying to find us the best locations. With the surge of people jumping into this lifestyle, campgrounds are booked months in advance, and if you are thinking national parks, sometimes even years in advance. There are many options and apps out there to help with this task, so that means we have to check them all to make sure we are able to get in, which takes me to the next lesson learned. The ones that we use are ParkAdvisor great campground database with reviews and links to the campsites directly; Recreation.gov for stays at National Parks, Sēkr, a crowdsource travel app with info on sites, events and even people around you. The Dyrt with campsites, reviews & tips from local campers, and because we travel with our dogs, BringFido giving you on the go information of dog-friendly businesses (for the most part breweries are the most dog friendly ones) and AllTrails with info on trails, maps, difficulty levels, etc, that allow us to exercise them while on the go in addition of giving me some great photography opportunities.
Size does matter. Yes, it does, and you have to be well aware of the size, weight (more about this further down, so keep reading), and height of your rig. This is important when planning stays, routes to take, and even gas stations or places to get a quick bite. You no longer have the flexibility to make last-minute decisions. Plan, plan, plan before you take off. Quite often you'd see us sitting on the truck for minutes before we actually take off; that's because we are not only entering the address in our GPS but making sure it's taking us through the planned route. One that is taking us through maybe not the fastest route but the safest. There have been times that the GPS has tried to take us through dirt roads in the past or routes with bridges that don't have enough clearance for us, we have found the TruckMap app very helpful that caters to the 18 wheelers and transportation industry; in addition to our phone and pickup apps.
Maintenance is key. Learn as much as you can about your vehicle and RV. Things will break and you may find having to do repairs yourself to get you out of bad situations. We do have road assistance plans through AAA, Good Sam Club, and through our car insurance as well; but sometimes it will take days for them to come and help you. So preventive care is key. I sometimes think of myself as an airplane pilot, where we have a routine of things to do and check before we leave, and when we get to a place; we both check for the same just to be on the safe side.
Search hashtags for things to do/photograph. One of the most helpful things for me as a photographer and also to decide future destinations has been relying on social media. I am mostly on Instagram as @luissaenz and my feed is always giving me ideas of places I'd like to go and photograph myself. So once we are locked on a destination, I then search for #hashtags related to that area. Not only has provided us with ideas and off the mainstream locations, but then paired with some of the apps listed above, we plan our activities for our stay.
Join social Media groups/discussion boards. I am hesitant to write about this last point, mostly because these groups or discussion boards are mainly on Facebook, where people's opinions tend to go the wrong way. But we have found good help whenever facing difficulties with either the RV or finding open campgrounds, etc. So take it with a salt of grain.
Stay Healthy: This is crucial and should have been the first on this list. Getting sick while being nomad 100% is not fun. You'd no longer have your family doctor to go to or your health insurance may not cover you while you are out of state or the country. Your alternative will be using telemed services if your insurance has that option, or going to walk-in clinics. Some insurances will allow you to get "Away from home" care, which works pretty much the same as when kids go out to college to another state, but you would have to get authorization for it from your insurance. We also exercise 4-5 times a week; as former crossfitters, we miss being able to go to a box every day. You can always drop in at different boxes throughout the country for a fee (which normally gets you a free t-shirt), or like us, we joined Street Parking, an online platform with a great online support community, that provides you with daily workouts with 4 versions of them, depending on the amount/type of equipment that you may have at home. So don't be surprised if you see us outside of our RV banging weights and swearing while we try to make it through. Remember that I mentioned that size matters?, well, because of being nomads and living on a fifth wheel, we are limited by space and weight of things we can carry too; so we only have a barbell, 210 lbs of combined plates, a set of 25 lb dumbbells, a 35 and a 50 lb kettlebells, and our latest addition, that we sure love is our Whipr a multifunctional ERG unit that combines paddle, ski, row, kayak, canoe, dragon boat, swim, surf, and plyo... all in one, that fits in a suitcase.
And the most important of them all: Have Fun & Meet People. Time goes by so quickly when you are a nomad, at least to us. So we make the best out of each place we are at, Kevin is really good about socializing, making friends at campgrounds and at the most bizarre places (grocery store, laundromat, etc.) that have resulted on great friendships and people opening their homes to us, having total strangers at their place either for dinner or letting us stay at their property.
If you ever decide to pull the plug and hit the road, or are already on your own journey, we would love to connect and maybe travel together and learn from each other. Follow us at @luissaenz @nomad_ones and @kevinmichigan58
Disclaimer: We are not sponsored by any of the apps or sites mentioned on this site, they are tools that have made our journey much easier, faster, and healthier.